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For the first time in American sports, a major organization has mandated that its team members stand for the national anthem. As reported by Fox analyst Stu Holden, a new U.S. Soccer policy says that team members must “stand respectfully during the playing of national anthems” whenever the federation is represented.
According to Holden, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said there were no preset consequences for anybody who didn’t obey, and it sounds like the federation will deal with the issue if somebody doesn’t stand at attention.
But clearly, the rule is aimed at avoiding the protest made last year by Megan Rapinoe, who took inspiration from former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his habit of kneeling during the national anthem.
“It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it,” Rapinoe said at the time. “It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
She also said that as a gay woman, she’s placed her hand over her heart during the national anthem and felt at times like this country hasn’t protected her liberties.
But the stances of Kaepernick (and Rapinoe) also sparked outrage, and at the time, U.S. Soccer said there was an expectation that all team members stand for the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Now, it’s an official policy.
Gulati gave his opinion on Rapinoe’s protest last November when he told FourFourTwo, “There is a right to free speech; she also has the obligations to putting on a national team uniform. And we think those are pretty strong when you’re representing the U.S. national team and wearing the crest.”
Here was how the players’ association for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team responded.
USWNT Players Association statement on US Soccer's new anthem rule (with bonus dig at USSF meeting at a vacation site while WNT froze): pic.twitter.com/M2rXXmewfz— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) March 5, 2017
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.